Philippine Coast Guard accuses Chinese vessels of ‘dangerous’ manoeuvres

MANILA: The Philippine Coast Guard on Sunday (Feb 11) accused Chinese vessels of “dangerous” manoeuvres during a nine-day patrol near a reef off the coast of the Southeast Asian country.

The Philippine vessel BRP Teresa Magbanua was deployed in early February to patrol the waters around Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground in the South China Sea, and “ensure the safety of Filipino fishermen in the area”.

The reef has been a flashpoint between the countries since China seized it from the Philippines in 2012.

Since then, Beijing has deployed patrol boats that Manila says harass Philippine vessels and prevent Filipino fishermen from reaching the lagoon where fish are more plentiful.

During the patrol, Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessels “performed dangerous and blocking manoeuvres at sea against BRP Teresa Magbanua four times, with the CCG vessels crossing the bow of the PCG vessel twice”, the Philippine Coast Guard said in a statement.

The Philippine Coast Guard said its ship was also “shadowed” by four Chinese Coast Guard vessels “on more than 40 occasions”.

The coast guard also observed what it described as “four Chinese Maritime Militia vessels”.

The Chinese embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Scarborough Shoal is 240km west of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon and nearly 900km from the nearest major Chinese land mass of Hainan.

Under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which China helped negotiate, countries have jurisdiction over the natural resources within about 200 nautical miles or 370km off their shore.

The Philippine Coast guard also distributed food and groceries to 100 Filipino fishermen in 14 boats, the statement said.

The incidents came two months after tense standoffs between China and the Philippines around disputed reefs in the South China Sea that saw a collision between vessels from the two countries and Chinese ships blasting water cannon at Philippine boats.

China claims almost the entire sea and has ignored an international tribunal ruling that its assertions have no legal basis.

It deploys boats to patrol the busy waterway and has built artificial islands that it has militarised to reinforce its claims.

Chinese and Philippine officials last month agreed on the need for closer dialogue to deal with “maritime emergencies” in the waterway.

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